- Easy-to-follow plan for beginners
- Integrated music playlist
- Twitter/Facebook integration
- GPS tracking costs extra
- No option to use GPS independently
I recently received a question from a reader about the best running app for beginners. I discuss several options in our list of the best iPhone running apps, but while these apps can track your run, they don’t tell you how much to run or how often. The C25K app (US$2.99) is a great choice for new runners, as it combines an easy-to-follow beginner’s plan with GPS tracking capabilities.
What is C25K?
C25K (Couch to 5K) is a respected beginner's plan with the goal of getting you off the coach and running a 5K (3.1 miles) in nine weeks. The training plan includes three workouts per week. Starting on the first day of week one, you’ll alternate 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes, plus a five-minute warm-up and five-minute cool down. As the weeks progress, you’ll start running more and walking less until you are jogging for a full 30 minutes.
When you launch the C25K app, you can select the appropriate workout using the slider along the bottom of the screen. Tap ‘Start’ on the workout page, and voice prompts will guide you through you run. The app tells you everything, including when to walk and when to run. After you complete a workout, a small button listed underneath will turn green, which makes it easy to keep track of which workouts you’ve already completed.
Playing Music While Running
The C25K app integrates with your iPod so you can listen to music while you run. Unlike other running apps, you’ll have to create a new playlist within the app instead of using your existing playlists. Fortunately, the process is really easy and you can select multiple songs at once from your iPod library.
I love that you can control your music right from the workout page, including skipping songs or pausing your playlist. You can even control the volume without interrupting your workout. Facebook and Twitter integration is another plus. The app will automatically share your workout progress with friends if you enable it in the settings menu.
Tracking Pace and Distance
Like most running apps, C25K also has a GPS component. By taking advantage of the iPhone’s built-in GPS, the C25K can track your distance, pace, and calories. However, you’ll have to pay extra for this module (US$0.99) via an in-app purchase. The app displays pace, distance, and average pace (time is included whether or not you buy the GPS module) in pretty small numbers, so they’re not the easiest to see when you are running.
The GPS portion of the C25K app works very well -- it is accurate and quick to establish a connection. Unfortunately, I do have a few nitpicky complaints. For one, the GPS tracking automatically stops when the C25K workout is complete. That’s fine, but if you feel like walking or running a bit longer one day, the app won’t be tracking your distance or pace.
You also can’t use the GPS tracking independently of the C25K workout schedule. Once you complete the nine-week training plan, there are options for a 30-minute or 45-minute run, but what if you want to run for an hour? The C25K app would be more valuable over the long haul if you could use it as a standalone GPS tracker once the training plan is complete.
The Bottom Line
I highly recommend the C25K app for beginners. The training plan is a smart way to gradually build up your running mileage, and the app includes a bunch of nifty features. It’s also easy to use and doesn’t cost that much. However, since the C25K app limits how you can use the GPS tracker, you’ll probably want to spring for another running app -- like Runmeter GPS or RunKeeper Pro -- when you complete the training plan. Overall rating: 4 stars out of 5.
What You’ll Need